Highlights of Bhutan with Ura Yakchoe Festival

Highlights of Bhutan with Ura Yakchoe Festival 12 Days / 11 Nights

Trip Code: HAT90

Trip Type:
Bhutan Festival Tours

Maximum Altitude:
3,100m

Durations:
12 Days

Trip Starts:
Paro

Trip Ends:
Paro

Accomodation:
Hotels and camps

Best Time For Travel:
March-April

Trip Over View

Bhutan has a rich cultural variety and the wide variety of festivals makes it even richer. Bhutan celebrates many small and big festivals all through the year and festivals have become a deep part of Bhutanese life. This Ura Yakchoe Festival tour encompasses the highlights of Western and Central Bhutan and focuses on Paro Tshechu - probably the biggest of the Tsechus of Bhutan. The Black mountain separates Western Bhutan from the rest of the country, extending roughly north-south with virgin forest providing a natural habitat for wildlife such as Himalayan black bears, leopards, red pandas, and about 450 species of birds.

Beautiful Bhutan

In different places and months and many festivals are celebrated in Bhutan and attending religious festivals for the Bhutanese offers an opportunity to become absorbed in the meaning of their religion and to gain much merit. The festivals are also an opportunity meeting people, being seen in public, for social exchanges and also for flaunting success. You will see people in their finest clothes and most beautiful jewelries. People also take this as an opportunity to enjoy picnics and grand feast.

Ura Yakchoe Festival is very popular festival which is also a popular dance. The Ura Yakchoe dance is performed amongst several other dances and also sacred relic is put on display so that the people can receive blessings from it. The trip coincides with the famous Ura Yakchoe Festival in Ura Village. The Festival of Ura is about an old woman who was sitting outside her house and she had a mysterious visitor, a lama who asked her for a glass of water. She came back with a glass of water only to find the lama had vanished, leaving behind a sack. She checked the bag out of curiosity and found there was a statue. This relic since then has been passed on from generations and now it’s owned by the descendants of the woman. Every year, this festival is organized and the relic is displayed to the public to seek blessings. Festival time also is an opportunity to meet the rural Bhutanese, interact with them and know more of their way of life and culture. Bhutanese have colorful and inimitable festivals and the best ways to experience them is to visit Bhutan during festival time and witness Bhutanese festivals as you add varieties in your journey.

Outline Itinerary

Day 01: Flight to Paro, Bhutan.

Day 02: Paro Sightseeing. (B/L/D).

Day 03: Drive to Thimpu. (B/L/D).

Day 04: At Thimpu.

Day 05: Drive to Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang.

Day 06: Drive to Bumthang (Jakar). (B/L/D).

Day 07: Full day in Bumthang Valley. (B/L/D).

Day 08: Ura Valley excursion and attend the festival.

Day 09: Return drive to Bumthang.

Day 10: Drive to Trongsa.

Day 11: Drive to Paro.

Day 12: Departure.

Day 01: Flight to Paro, Bhutan
You can choose to fly either from Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkatta or Kathmandu to Paro, Bhutan. Upon arrival at Paro airport immigration, produce your visa approval letter provided by us and get your passport stamped with authentic visa. Claim your baggage and walk through the customs and meet your guide outside the airport and get transferred to your hotel.

In the afternoon, we visit the national museum which is housed in an ancient watch tower. The museum’s collection range from books, paintings, textiles, crafts, arms, utensils, stuffed animals, insects, gallery of philatelic collection and a shrine with the tree that has four sides with statues representing the four school of Lamaism; Sakya, Gelug, Nyingma and Kagyu with emphasis on Drukpa Kagyu sub sect. Overnight in a hotel at Paro.

Day 02: Paro Sightseeing. (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we explore the highlights of Paro that includes Paro Rinpung Dzong, Kichu Temple, ruins of Drugyel Dzong and a visit to a typical farm house. In the afternoon, we hike to the legendary Taktstang Monatery, famed as Tiger’s Nest.

Takstang Monastery is perched some 2,000ft/600m up on a sheer cliff overlooking the valley and was said to be where the legendary Indian saint, Guru Padmasambhava, flew from Tibet on the back of a tiger to defeat five demons who were opposing the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan. The hike is about 2 hours to the teahouse or opt to ride on the pony. After tea and snacks, you may either choose to hike further uphill for about 45mins to get a closer look at Taktsang and the surrounding temples or just remain at the Tea house and enjoy the views.

The return trek to the road head is all downhill and takes about half the time. Depending on the available time, we visit festival or other sights in Paro.

Day 03: Drive to Thimpu. (B/L/D)
Today, we drive to Thimpu (2hrs) - the capital city of Bhutan. After some rest, we take a self-guided tour to the King’s Memorial Chorten and visit other sights as time permits.

Day 04: At Thimpu
After breakfast, we begin our sightseeing with a visit to the colorful weekend market, where people from near and far come to sell or buy the fresh produce. It is where the village folks jostle with the well-heeled resident of Thimpu for the best and the cheapest vegetables and other food stuffs. Weekends also provide an opportunity to see the traditional game of archery played in the nearby grounds.

During these two days in the capital, we also visit the school of traditional arts and painting, indigenous hospital, heritage museum, textile museum, Tashicho Dzong, nunnery at Zilukha, handicrafts workshops and shops, handmade paper factory, gold and silver smiths, memorial chorten, Zangdopelri temple, mini zoo to see Takin and other sights as time and interest permit. In the evening we take a self-guided walk and so some shopping. Overnight at hotel River view.

Day 05: Drive to Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang
We continue our drive towards Wangdue phodrang and Punakha which takes about 3 hours. As we leave Thimphu, the road climbs up to Dochula pass (Alt. 3010m), where we stop to get a spectacular panoramic view of the snowcapped mountain range of Bhutan (weather permitting!). Near the pass, there are many chortens (pagoda or stupas) and hundreds of prayers flags fluttering about in the wind. After the pass, the road drops through changing vegetation into the semitropical lowland of Punakha - Wangdue valley at around 1400m.

Punakha and Wangdue valleys being at a lower elevation are therefore warmer with a semi-tropical climate and vegetation such as cactuses, bananas and orange groves. Check in to hotel and after lunch we visit Punakha Dzong – the former winter capital of Bhutan. The head abbot and monks of the central monastic body reside in Punakha Dzong during the winter months and in Thimpu during the summer. Time permitting, we drive to the village near the junction road between Punakha and Wangdue and take a pleasant 20 minute hike to Chimi Lhakhang temple, dedicated to the Saint Drukpa Kuenley (1455-1529), also known as the “divine madman”. He is very popular as he taught Buddhist teachings in the way that is unlike the stiffness of clergy and society of the time; he dramatized the teachings using songs and sexual humor.

Day 06: Drive to Bumthang (Jakar) (B/L/D)
After an early breakfast, we set off on the road to Jakar. The road from Punakha passes through the town of Wangdue Phodrang and from Chuzomsa starts to climb steadily for about 2 hours, crossing the Black Mountains at Pele la Pass (3420m). From here, on a clear day, we can see Mt. Jumolhari and other mountains across the valley. Following the pass, we are now in Mangde region and the people speak a different dialect here. We continue our drive to Trongsa, stopping en-route at Chendebji chorten and other places to stretch our legs, admire the landscape and take pictures. We have lunch at Trongsa and take a peek at the Trongsa Dzong, which is considered one of the largest and certainly the most impressive of all Dzongs in Bhutan. Trongsa Dzong is a rambling collection of buildings that trail down the ridge with remarkable streets like corridors and wide stone stairs running down. It was from here that the present royal family emerged as the most powerful force at the beginning of the last century. The first two hereditary kings ruled the country from here and it is still a tradition that the crown prince first serves as the Trongsa Penlop before ascending to the throne.

From Trongsa, it is another 68km/ 2 and ½ hours drive Jakar across Youtongla pass (3425m). After the pass, we descend into Chume, the first of the four Bumthang valleys. We stop at the roadside village of Zugney to see the weaving of Yathra (a deep colored wool textile, a pattern typical to these parts of the country). Overnight and dinner at Mountain Lodge or similar.

Day 07: Full day in Bumthang Valley (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we start sightseeing tour with a drive to Jambay Ihakang, visit Chakar temple (iron castle), and continue to the Kurjey monastery complex. After visiting Kurjey, we start a gentle, level walk across the suspension bridge over the Chamkhar Chu River to Tamshing Lhakang. We walk through the village to a smaller Kunchok sum temple and then continue the walk through the farmland to the Swiss farm area. At this point, our vehicle meets us and we transfer to the hotel for lunch. In the afternoon, we visit the new monastery of Namhai Nyingpo, the traditional hospital, Jakar Dzong, Lamay Gompa and other sights as time permits. Overnight at Mountain Lodge or similar at Jakar.

Day 08: Ura Valley Excursion and attend the festival
From Tang it is 50 kms (32 miles) across a pass to the Ura valley, the last and highest of the Bumthang valley. The road descends into Ura by a series of long loops across fields and pastures. Villages in the region of Ura characteristically have very closely clustered houses, which is unusual in Bhutan.

We come together with the Bhutanese people from different locations across the country and interact with hundreds of high-spirited local onlookers dressed in their finest clothes and jewelry to pay respect and to be blessed at "Tshechu." social gathering. Here we can truly appreciate the essence of Bhutanese people and a preserved steadfast culture. It is a rare privilege bestowed to only a limited number of visitors each year. We camp at Ura Village or possibly a farm house stay in one of the local houses in Ura.

Day 09: Return drive to Bumthang
We return to the festival ground and participate in the festival all day. We drive back to Bumthang late in the afternoon.

Day 10: Drive to Trongsa
We retrace our drive back across Yotongla pass and descend into Trongsa which takes about 3 hours. In the afternoon we have a more in-depth visit of the huge and historical Trongsa Dzong (fortress), site of the emergence of present Royal family of Bhutan. We also visit Ta Dzong (watch tower) which now houses the temple dedicated to Jigme Namgyel, father of the first King of Bhutan.

Day 11: Drive to Paro
Leaving Trongsa, we return west, stopping to visit the Chendebji Chorten, a large white monument said to conceal the remnants of an evil spirit vanquished here. Continuing across the spectacular Pelela pass (3,300m), we descend into the valleys of Punakha and Wangdue. After a further drive through blossoming hills and pine forests, we arrive at Dochula pass (3,100m) for another opportunity to get the panoramic view of the eastern Himalayan range, including Bhutan’s highest peak Gangkar Phuensum. We continue the drive towards Paro via Thimpu.

Day 12: Departure
Transfer to the airport in time for flight to your next destination.

  • Includes

    • Accommodation on twin sharing.
    • All transfers and sightseeing as on itinerary.
    • Three meals a day.
    • English speaking local Tour Guide.
    • Sightseeing admission fee.
    • Bhutan visa fee.


    Excludes

    • Airfare to and out of Bhutan (Separately quoted).
    • Expenses of personal nature such as drinks, tip, laundry, phone etc.
    • Extra expenses or loss due to nature and unforeseen events.
    • Travel Insurance.
  •